Gadsden, Alabama

Gadsden, Alabama
—  City  —
Gadsden is located in Alabama
Location in Alabama.
Coordinates: 34°0′36″N 86°0′37″W / 34.01°N 86.01028°W / 34.01; -86.01028
Country United States
State Alabama
County Etowah
 – Type Mayor-Council (w. seven councilmen)
 – Mayor Sherman Guyton
 – Total 37.2 sq mi (96.3 km2)
 – Land 36 sq mi (93.2 km2)
 – Water 1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2)
Elevation 541 ft (165 m)
Population (2006)[1]
 – Total 37,291
 – Density 1,047.8/sq mi (400.12/km2)
Time zone Central Time (UTC-6)
 – Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 35901-35907
Area code(s) Area Code 256
FIPS code 01-28696
GNIS feature ID 0157961
Website City of Gadsden

The city of Gadsden is the county seat of Etowah County in the U.S. state of Alabama, and it is located about 65 miles northeast of Birmingham, Alabama. It is the primary city of the Gadsden Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 103,459. Gadsden is closely associated with the neighboring town of Attalla, Alabama. As of the U.S. Census Bureau estimate in 2006, the population of the city was about 37,300.[1]

Gadsden was at one time in the 19th century Alabama's second most important center of commerce and industry, trailing only the seaport of Mobile. The two cities were important shipping centers: Gadsden for riverboats and Mobile for international trade. Through the 1980s, Gadsden was a center on heavy industry, including the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and the Republic Steel Corporation.

More than a decade after the sharp decline in industry, in 1991 Gadsden was awarded the honor of All-America City by the National Civic League, an award that honored the way Gadsden's citizens, government, businesses, and voluntary organizations work together to address critical local issues.



The first substantial white settlement in what is now Gadsden was a village called "Double Springs". This was begun by a mixed American Indian and caucasian settler named John Riley when he built his house near two springs in about 1825. This became a stagecoach stop on the Huntsville-to-Rome route. The original house still stands today as the oldest one in Gadsden.

The house changed hands to a couple named Gabriel and Asenath Hughes in 1840. Shortly thereafter, they began to purchase much of the land between Lookout Mountain, the Coosa River, and down to the mouth of Wills Creek. The Hughes brothers' unrealized vision was to bring a proposed railroad from Savannah to Nashville through their holdings.[2] Their land, plus that of John S. Moragne and Lewis L. Rhea, was the 120 acres on which the original survey of Gadsden was made. Double Springs was transformed on July 4, 1845, when one Captain James Lafferty piloted the first steamboat to this area, aptly named the Coosa. Lafferty landed near the site of the current Memorial Bridge on that date. The Hughes brothers offered to name the town "Lafferty's Landing" in his honor, but Lafferty declined. Instead, the name "Gadsden" was chosen, in honor of Colonel James Gadsden of South Carolina, who later became prominent for the Gadsden Purchase.[3]

Perspective map of Gadsden in 1887.
The Spirit of American Citizenship Monument on Rainbow Drive (US 411), just before the Broad Street Bridge. The Coosa River and East Gadsden are visible in the background.

After most of Gadsden's major industries departed in the 1970s and 80's, the city began to crash. A Rand McNally article in 1989 listed Gadsden as one of the "Seven Worst Cities to Live in the United States". The city government was spurred to action by these reports, and efforts like the Cultural Arts Center and downtown redevelopment earned Gadsden first place in the 2000 City Livability Awards Program.[4]


Gadsden is located at 34°0′37″N 86°0′37″W / 34.01028°N 86.01028°W / 34.01028; -86.01028 (34.010147, -86.010356)[5].

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 37.2 square miles (96 km2), of which 36.0 square miles (93 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2) (3.25%) is water.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 1,697
1890 2,901 70.9%
1900 4,282 47.6%
1910 10,557 146.5%
1920 14,737 39.6%
1930 24,042 63.1%
1940 36,975 53.8%
1950 55,725 50.7%
1960 54,440 −2.3%
1970 53,928 −0.9%
1980 47,565 −11.8%
1990 42,523 −10.6%
2000 38,978 −8.3%
Est. 2007 36,936 −5.2%

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 38,978 people, 16,456 households, and 10,252 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,083.6 people per square mile (418.4/km2). There were 18,797 housing units at an average density of 522.6 per square mile (201.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 62.69% White, 34.00% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.22% from other races, and 1.17% from two or more races. 2.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 16,456 households out of which 24.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.5% were married couples living together, 18.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 33.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 20.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 85.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,823, and the median income for a family was $31,740. Males had a median income of $29,400 versus $19,840 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,610. About 18.1% of families and 22.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.9% of those under age 18 and 14.6% of those age 65 or over.


Citing statistics from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations and the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority reports that approximately 12,000 residents of Etowah County are underemployed and 2,179 residents are unemployed as of 2008.[7]


The Gadsden City Board of Education oversees fourteen schools: eight elementary schools, three middle schools, one high school, and two specialty schools (one alternative center and one technical center).

A new high school, Gadsden City High School, replaced the three former city high schools (Emma Sansom High School, Gadsden High School, and Litchfield High School) via merger for the 2006-2007 school year.

Gadsden is home to three institutions of higher learning: Gadsden State Community College, which is the second largest among the 27 two-year institutions comprising the Alabama College System, Jacksonville State University, and the University of Alabama, although the latter are small satellite institutions. It is home to Yellawolf.


Gadsden is home to Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform synagogue founded in 1908. In a 1960 attack, the synagogue was fire-bombed, its windows smashed, and two members wounded with a shotgun by a Nazi sympathizer.[8]

Gadsden also houses other churches of Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist, and Catholic faiths.

Points of interest


Gadsden has a humid subtropical climate. It experiences hot, humid summers and generally mild winters, with average high temperatures ranging from 89.0 °F (31.6 C) in the summer to 49.4°F (9.5 C) high during winter.

Climate data for Ritzville, Washington
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 49
Average low °F (°C) 29
Precipitation inches (mm) 6.4
Source: Weatherbase [9]



  • The Gadsden Times (Daily morning paper. Part of the New York Times newspaper group.)
  • Gadsden Messenger: Weekly, locally owned newspaper.
  • The Reporter - Monthly, locally owned newspaper.


AM Radio

  • WAAX 570 - News/Talk
  • WGAD 1350 - Oldies
  • WMGJ 1240 - Talk, Religious, Urban/Contemporary

FM Radio

  • WKXX 102.9 - Top 40
  • WSGN 91.5 - NPR/PBS (Gadsden State Community College)
  • WGMZ 93.1 - Classic Rock

Health care


Notable natives and residents

Yelawolf, Rapper


  • Goodson, Mike. Gadsden: City of Champions. Illustrated by Brock Cole. Arcadia, 2002; ISBN 0-7385-2375-5. Part of the "Making of America" series.
  1. ^ a b "Annual Estimates of the Population for Incorporated Places in Alabama, Listed Alphabetically: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006" (CSV). 2007 Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. June 28, 2007. Retrieved June 28, 2007. 
  2. ^ Lawrence, James. A Study of the Origins of Gadsden, Alabama. 2005.
  3. ^ Gadsden-Etowah Tourism Board: Early Gadsden History
  4. ^ "Gadsden Receives First Place in 2000 City Livability Awards Program." The United States Conference of Mayors, however underemployment continues as a very severe problem as indicated by the economic data presented below. Accessed December 9, 2005.
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  7. ^ Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Authority website
  8. ^ Webb, Clive. Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, University of Georgia Press, 2001, pp. 142-143. ISBN 0-8203-2555-4
  9. ^ "Weatherbase: Weather for Gadsden, Alabama, United States of America". Weatherbase. 2011.  Retrieved on November 22, 2011.

External links

Coordinates: 34°00′37″N 86°00′37″W / 34.010147°N 86.010356°W / 34.010147; -86.010356

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